Scarborough like you've never seen it: Why 2 cousins want you to go adventuring on bike

When was the last time you went on an adventure in your own city?

If your answer is “too long” and you have a bike with some reasonably wide tires, then two cousins have something to add to your summer bucket list: the Scarborough South Loop.

Jimmy Judgey and Gurinder Sandhu spent years linking together the 27.3-kilometre route that’s almost 90 per cent off-road and takes you through 11 different parks, including the southern portion of the Rouge National Urban Park. Accessible by transit or car, it’s a gem in a city that can be a hostile place to bike. 

And here’s the thing they want you to know: It’s not for cyclists. It’s for everyone. 

“We live in such a diverse city and we want folks to feel like they have a place — a place in the cycling world, a place in outdoor adventures,” Judgey told CBC Toronto. 

The Scarborough South Loop takes riders along the top of the bluffs then later down to the beach. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

This story could be about road safety, it could be about environmental protection in a growing city or it could be about the niche-but-growing culture of gravel cycling. But for Judgey and Sandhu, it always comes back to inclusion and their mission to get more people on bikes.

Judgey grew up without much money in Scarborough, piecing together bikes with parts others discarded as scrap. Those are the kind of bikes he wants to see on the loop. That dusty Supercycle would be just fine, Sandhu adds, and no need for Lycra kit either.

WATCH: Jimmy and Dwight ride the eastern portion of the loop — and yeah, we brought the drone:

Grab a bike and go for an adventure on the Scarborough South Loop

The DriveSide’s Jimmy Judgey, who charted the mostly off-road loop with his cousin, takes CBC Toronto’s Dwight Drummond on a summer spin and explains how he’s hoping this route will get more people from all different backgrounds out exploring on two wheels.

The cousins also want to see more people of colour— who may not feel welcome when it comes to cycling or other outdoor pursuits— on two wheels. 

“We believe that bikes are for everyone and cycling adventures are for everyone, too,” Judgey said.

Sandhu points to the success other local groups, notably Mandem Cycling Club, have had with boosting diversity in Toronto’s cycling community in recent years by organizing big, joyous group rides. “They have the biggest smiles,” he said. There have been similar initiatives for everything from hiking to birding, and Sandhu says that visibility really matters. 

“It’s infectious. It really is.”

“I think cycling adventures provide such an avenue for folks to have an escape. To have fun. To practice mental health. Just to get a little break sometimes. We especially love showing people the magic of Scarborough,” Judgey told CBC Toronto during a ride last week. (John Rieti/CBC)

Riding the eastern portion of the loop on a beautiful summer day, Jimmy was similarly all smiles as he shepherded this reporter and CBC’s Dwight Drummond around part of the route. He’s one of those people who is pure encouragement. The DriveSide, the website the duo launched as a pandemic project, is an extension of that.

The site’s instructions exist to be a helping hand; Here’s the route you can download to your phone, here’s a simple first aid kit, oh and if you want, here’s a guide to brewing coffee while you’re out there.

The personal touch is there from the jump.

Scarborough cyclists may know parts of the route — especially the Pan Am Path and Waterfront Trail sections — but the DriveSide’s loop links up little sections of dirt (wiggling across a grass field alongside a city depot at one moment, cruising under hulking overpasses a bit later) to keep you ensconced in nature. The cousins got lost so many times figuring it out.

The view at East Point Park, which is also a bird sanctuary, will have you wondering: Am I really in Toronto right now? (John Rieti/CBC)

You’ll ride past a bird sanctuaries, maybe spot a monarch butterfly or two and find yourself wondering “Am I really in Toronto right now?” If you’re kind, maybe you’ll grab some litter and bike it to the next garbage bin.

Lots of Scarborough residents will know these parks, too. They’re chill spots for some, the site of countless family parties for others. In that way, the ride is like a spin through a thousand lush backyards.

“We especially love showing people the magic of Scarborough,” Judgey said.

“You find that people are in such a positive head space when they’re in the parks.”

Three years in the making, the Scarborough South Loop “gives you the diversity all the way through” when it comes to scenery, Judgey said. (John Rieti/CBC)

The willow trees alone are worth the ride. There’s a river to follow, bridges to cross, Lake Ontario vistas that are perfect for dreaming on (or, you know, Instagramming), and some secluded beaches for you to cool down at.

That’s a description of less than half the route. 

A group of cyclists rides through Morningside Park, an easily accessible place to start the Scarborough South Loop if you’re arriving by car. (John Rieti/CBC)

The real joy of this ride is what’s not there: chiefly high-stress moments of having to ride near traffic. Yes, there are hills, including some Sandhu admits can look like “daunting monsters” to inexperienced riders, but the founders have a solution to that, too: admitting there’s no shame in a little hike-a-bike. 

Ride the route one way, or the other. Move at “party pace” and have a good time. Don’t worry about the risk of a flat tire because you’re never far from support. There are no wrong answers.

“It’s all about bridging that moment of hesitation,” Sandhu said.

Once those barriers are broken down, the pair says, it’s as simple as their motto: “Be nice, ride a bike, repeat.”

There are some chunkier sections of gravel on the route, which means most riders will want tires wider than 32 millimetres, Judgey says. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of hike-a-bike. (John Rieti/CBC)

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By Jon Doe